Courgetti Spaghetti

I hope there is a glut of English courgettes this year, I have so many great recipes I want to try out now that I’ve got a brand new gadget that turns a courgette into spaghetti or linguine, either will do. spiraliser

Meet the spiraliser, it seems to be this years top kitchen gadget; looks like an egg timer with a bite: teeth either side for variable cutting thickness.

Turns out spirals of courgette makes for a really good pasta substitute if like me you’re cutting down on the carbs. And so long as you don’t over cook the courgetti so that it stays firm and doesn’t go limp, it really does have a good structure (like pasta) to hold together whatever else you want to add.

courgettiI’d say stir fry for a few seconds not minutes just long enough to toss around the pan, in my case a wok with a teaspoon of oil until it’s hot. Turn off the heat and then add other ingredients.

My recipe is a minty summery mix of 1 large courgette, a handful of peas, another handful of mint, 2 tspn of lemon juice, 1 tspn of lemon zest, pinch of salt, pop an edible flower on top and that’s it.Courgetti Peas Mint


Creamy Crab Linguine






Another recipe I love with courgette is Crab and Avocado Linguine from Amelia Freer’s blog. I’m enjoying her book, Eat, Nourish, Glow, life lessons on how to eat well and mindfully. She writes about grace around food, and asks the reader ‘what kind of eater are you?’. Well I never really thought about that but it’s a really good question. I’d say I’m a greedy eater. Greedy for good wholesome food but as the scales show, you can have too much good food. ‘Indulge on life, not food,’ she says. Yeah I’m up for that. So out goes the pasta and in with all the courgettes I can eat, well not literally but the season will be here soon and it will be fun trying out different recipes, mindfully I should add. Did I mention the flowers? Totally decadent, but only in moderation, of course.

Short, Sharp and Sweet

Until now, the only other time I made lemon curd was back in Mrs Clarke’s domestic science lesson, I was thirteen. But, only after we had learned to poach an egg, whisk up a egg mayonnaise from scratch, knock up a good firm but not too firm egg custard, and finally create the pièce de résistance: a béchamel sauce with added cheese poured over boiled eggs cut in half lengthways et voilà: Eggs Mornay. All that French influence and fancy cooking was an eye opener to my mum back in the 60s, when every Wednesday afternoon I brought home the finished project. Looking back I am very grateful to Mrs Clarke, who not only looked a bit like Delia, she cooked like her. Mrs Clarke was very meticulous: everything measured, everything timed, everything perfect. The world was ordered and safe and backed up with handwritten notes in blue ink.

Mrs Clarke’s methods gave me the confidence to throw the rule book out the window and learn to trust my own palate and improvisation in the kitchen (more Nigella than Delia). Anyway, back to the home-made lemon curd which once graced the tea table of all the families I knew when I was growing up, then it seemed to go almost extinct and we all turned our noses up at it. Well I’m sure that’s not entirely true but it wasn’t very cool to eat it or make it and the last time I bought a jar it tasted like it would strip the enamel off my teeth in one go. I don’t think my grown up children have ever eaten it.

And then the world turned upside down and it became cool to be making jam and lemon curd and blackberry vinegar and wonderful stuff for my kitchen store cupboard and gifts for friends. These things have become luxuries and lovely indulgencies because the raw materials can be hard to find, time being one of them, and the fact that they only come in one season. (That said, I discovered it is possible to buy sloes on ebay and I can always buy fresh over blown blackberries all the year round in supermarkets, at a price but I don’t.)

Bergamot Lemon Curd 1The thing about lemons is that they are always in season, well we’ve been led to believe that is so thanks to the many ways fresh fruit and vegetables are made available to us all year round.

But then there are certain lemons, and certain oranges like the ones from Seville that really are only available in one short season, so that to me makes them rather special and highly desirable because they are prized for their particular and consistent flavour and then once they’re gone, they’re gone until, you hope, the next season. So I was very excited when I got hold of a supply of Bergamot lemons more often called Bergamot orange (so it goes a cross breed of bitter orange and lemon). Marmalade is at the top of the list and then out of nowhere I started thinking about making lemon curd.

The Bergamot lemon/orange gives Earl Grey it’s distinctive citrus flavour. The taste is not quite as sour as a lemon and is recommended for several orange deserts as I found during my searches on the Internet. I used Nigel Slater’s recipe for lemon curd as my starting point as this one has less sugar than a few others I checked, he also adds more yolk than egg white which made sense to me. The same web page suggests other things you can do with this wonderful, under-appreciated, lemony butter.

Bergamot Lemon Curd 2Bergamot Lemon Curd 

Zest & juice of 5 Bergamot lemons 100 g butter                                       3 eggs plus an extra yolk                    200 g castor sugar

Melt butter, sugar with zest and juice in a bowl over a pan of simmering hot water. Whisk lightly until sugar melted. Beat together the eggs and add to the mix, keep frisking until the consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, lick to test sharpness, add another lemon if it’s not to your liking. I added the fifth lemon at this point. I was happy with the consistency after about 15 minutes. Let it cool a bit, then pour it into a measuring jug ready for pouring into two small jars. I had exactly half a litre which filled two jars plus a little left over for sampling.

Bergamot Lemon Curd 3 I placed the sample in the freezer for about half an hour to thicken up quickly. It was divine stirred into a bowl of plain yogurt. Top banana in fact. Seems like only a little output for a lot of ingredients but I prefer it that way, all the better to savour and keep fresh. Short, sharp and sweet just the way I like it.



Back in May I planted out three courgette plants. One didn’t make it but the other two are bearing a fantastic crop.

Over the last two weeks there’s been enough for several feastings. O-M-Gosh, the best part is cooking and eating the flowers. A courgette or zucchini, same thing, is the immature fruit, like a swollen ovary behind the big blousey, yellow female flower.

A clever plant that produces male and female flowers at the same time, convenient for pollination if you’ve only got room for one plant. The male flowers wiggle around on long stems intent on attracting passing insects.

I haven’t seen any bees in my garden since before all that rain so it must be other insects pollinating the plants. I often find ants inside the flowers so maybe that’s it. That means I’ve probably cooked and eaten a few.

I followed Hugh Fearless Whittingstall’s recipe on how to cook the flowers in a batter, but opted out of the cheese filling because I wanted a ‘virgin’ experience since this was my first time ‘eating flowers’.

He’s right this is the most exquisite and delicious, gorgeous vegetable you can put in your mouth. A couple of years ago during a long stay in Rome, I curiously watched housewives buy zucchini flowers by the boxful from the local food market in Testaccio. My loss for not finding out there and then what those women knew about eating the lotus flower.

A plate full of lightly battered courgette flowers served with a couple of tasty dips and a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio at lunch time, and you’d want to put off the rest of the day until tomorrow.




Meals on Fire

I make no apology for another Thai inspired, heat inducing, salad. The days are still chilly. This one starts with home grown broad beans and my new favourite vegetable: kholrabi `Azur Star’ from the veg to grow box.

What a nice tidy habit it has sitting there waiting to be plucked out of the ground and straight into a salad. Even the leaves won’t go to waste. It has to be one of the best convenience foods you can grow.

I have to say Jim’s broad beans didn’t look that appetising, all covered in black aphids but close up the infestation is only superficial and the beans inside are perfect in their blankety bed.

I pushed a few of the smaller beans whole, through the bean slicer (brilliant invention) and increased the bean count with a handful of nice fat beans from this week’s veg box.

Peeling the kholrabi and slicing into thin strips was a joy (cooks call it julienning) it’s oh, so fresh. I added a tin of organic chick peas to give more substance and texture, and combined all together with a salad dressing based on the Thai Som Tam recipe:

Take: 1 tbsp roasted salted peanuts, or 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter, 1 tbsp lime juice, red chillies, chopped and de-seeded according to how much fire you like in your salad, 1 tbsp fish sauce and a clove of garlic, chopped. 1 tsp of chilli jam or sugar/honey to sweeten.

Slip all the goodies into a jam jar and shake rattle and roll until all the flavours have turned into one big party, make sure the lid is on tight, otherwise make a less frenetic version and frisk it all up in a bowl.

To finish I sprinkled a few chopped leaves from my Vietnamese coriander plant. This dish has all sorts of potential to be be played up or down on flavour. Just pick a country and run with your imagination. Let me know if you do … every cook has their own favourite dressing, I’d love to hear yours.

Memory Loss and Pea Soup

The weeks seem to fly by with a veg box, remembering what I ate last week unless I blog it just seems to slip clean out of mind. However, seeing a fresh bunch of oregano on top of this week’s box today, reminds me that it made an appearance last week and I mindlessly steamed ahead and turned it into Pea and Mint soup . . . or so I thought . . . now I remember thinking it wasn’t quite as sweet as I was expecting and added a teaspoon of sugar.

Admittedly oregano, also known as wild marjoram is from the same family as mint but how could I mistake it? There’s even some growing in my herb bed along with oregano country cream, a variegated variety and more aromatic, very pretty. With the second bunch of oregano I’m going to have a go at drying it as the flavour should be all the better for it and I can store it. Here it is upside down in the bag, stapled at the bottom to allow some air in as it dries over the next 2 weeks. Find somewhere warm and dry to hang it.

Apparently, rosemary is good for sharpening one’s senses and an aide to memoir whereas, lavender which I use liberally in liquid form for insect bites, headaches, burns and other minor life crisis is a natural calming sedative.  Perhaps I need to change my medication?

Anyway mistakes often lead to the best inventions and I can definitely recommend a big handful of fresh oregano in pea soup. Here’s how:

Finely chop 1 medium onion, saute gently in a little olive oil and butter, I then added a handful of leftover, cold new potatoes, mix up with the onions to soak up oil. Add 1 litre of vegetable stock water, boiling. Simmer for a couple of minutes then add 300g of frozen peas and simmer for 5 minutes. Add fresh oregano (or mint) and allow to wilt a minute or so.

Blitz in a food processor or liquidiser, return to the pan heat up and then add another 300g of frozen peas and simmer another few minutes till peas are cooked. Season to taste and add a little sugar if you like. Eating whole peas in a pea soup which is traditionally a very smooth affair is a delightfully, refreshing unexpected experience; they do actually go pop in your mouth. Try it … let me know if it works for you.

Last word over to Hippocrates: According to the Oracle, H used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach upsets and respiratory troubles. Worth a try.

Oh Dear!

I am bereft. I am without veg box this week. I can’t believe it. Apparently my fault, didn’t hit the order button on line. The hungry gap takes on new meaning this week.

So back to the kitchen to forage for leftovers: 2 onions, 1 potato, 3 eggs, head of broccoli, scraggly bunch of spring onions, a few mushrooms and lots of salad leaves and herbs growing outdoors. But it’s not enough to not have to go shopping this week.

In the meantime it’s ready, steady, cook: mushroom and spring onion omelette with more salad leaves from le jardin.

Some little body out there has started munching my food, one lettuce and one spring onion has vanished but that’s OK, I guess so long as they leave enough for me. The 80/20 rule sounds about right if I get the lion’s share of what I grow and whatever can have the rest. Seems a fair deal and garden bug friendly. If not, I could resort to counter measures by placing grit around the salad basket, would that create a barrier and stop the slugs in their tracks? But what about the little critters with wings?

The organic eggs have a lovely deep mellow yellow yolk and come from Whitewater, the name of a Hampshire river not far from here. Lucky hens.

After this I should have the stamina to go out and face shopping.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Too many grey skies and dreary weather (please note I’m not complaining about the rain) has meant too much comfort eating of late (blame it on . . . see above), so it’s a green salad lunch for me.

Time to head out to the garden and harvest the first crop of salad leaves from the Riverford veg to grow range together with a few hand picked leaves from the Norfolk herb mint collection (apple, lime, orange). I’ve managed to keep all the seedlings alive since they arrived five weeks ago in April. The spring onions in the box next to the lettuce are a bit weedy, they need re-homing to get more growing room.

The rocket has sprouted a flower head, best nip that in the bud to encourage more leaf growth. According to the BBC web site lack of water encourages the plant to put its energy into producing flowers. Water supply is down to me as I’m still hand rearing some of the veg plants until it warms up but overcrowding is probably stressing plants that have reached the limits of their pots. Behind the rocket, the beetroot plants are pushing on as are the cabbage, rainbow chard, mustard, tomato and kohlrabi. Investing in the cool cupboard (sold as a mini greenhouse, out of season) has paid off during our very chilly spring. But it is time to move most of the the plants on.

Anyway back to lunch. Choice of the day: Halloumi cheese sliced and cooked in olive oil with a few capers added seems like a worthy accompaniment to my first, hand picked, home made salad AND three flavours of mint. A splash of red pepper that’s been skinned alive (charred under the grill until the black crispy skin peels away) turns my lunch into a visual feast.

Always worth the effort to rustle up fresh dressing: 1 tsp of grain mustard, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp apple juice + seasoning

Tasting so many different kinds of leaves in one salad is novel and the lime, apple and orange mint flavours punctuate each mouthful like lots of little exclamation marks!


Souffle Calabragilistic

I discovered soufflé during the, so-called winter of discontent. It was 1974 and I’d just set up home and had my first proper job, working albeit a three day week.  My employer was having such a hard time, he asked us to prioritise calls because it was cheaper to phone in the afternoon. The current BBC TV series, The Real 1970s reminds me of those bleak times with fuel rationing, food shortages, inflation out of control, power cuts and total black outs.

I got through those cold, dark winter nights tucked up in bed reading by candlelight Elizabeth David’s, French Provincial Cookery book. Perversely, reading about food seemed the next best thing to eating it. She wrote about food for the soul, which was such an exotic idea compared to the ideas I’d got from cook books written by sensible women who called themselves home economists. Fantasising about foreign foods and experimenting with new recipes cheered me up no end. I owe Ms David, it was a revelation as well as an education. My favourite frugal meal, at the time was ED’s cheese soufflé. Having a dozen hens as neighbours and a generous owner helped to keep up my soufflé habit.

Back to the future, it’s the day before the next veg box delivery and I’m rummaging around the fridge for a meal: half a head of calabrese and three eggs. Inspired by my 1970s food memories it seems right to get out the soufflé dish from the back of the cupboard and see if I’ve still got the knack.

Take: a handful of calabrese (broccoli), 3 eggs separated, 25g butter, 30g plain flour, 50g hard cheese, 300ml milk, fresh grated nutmeg, seasoning.

Butter 1 litre soufflé dish. Pre-heat oven 200C, Gas 6. Make a white sauce, remove from heat, season. Add cheese, nutmeg and three egg yolks. Set aside. Cook calabrese, chop finely. Whisk egg whites to stiffness. Fold in calabrese followed by egg whites. Pour mixture into the dish and cook for 30 minutes until well risen and brown. Serve immediately. Super duper expialidelicious! As good now as it was back then.

Ready Steady Cook

This week’s veg box: potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, leeks, curly kale.

It’s the day before my next veg box delivery and I’m staring at 1kg Valor potatoes, 5 carrots, 3 leeks and a couple of sprouting onions from the week before and wondering what’s for supper. I’ve also brought to the table a large red chilli (not organic from Tesco) and a couple of pork and apple sausages from the Riverford organic meat consignment  I ordered in for Easter weekend. I feel the need for meat and some heat.

Outside the temperature’s dropped and rain is spitting (bring it on otherwise the water shortage here in Hampshire will get worse, and my newly sown broad beans from Jim will not grow big and strong). The rest of the bed is reserved for the veg plants due tomorrow in a box to grow from Riverford.

A quick recap on what happened to all the other veg rations this week:

A big bag of bushy curly kale turned into a Grecian Greens Pie wrapped in filo pastry, otherwise known as Spanakopitta which provided supper for two and enough leftovers for two lunches. Turns out curly kale is a really good stand-in for spinach in this recipe.

The one legged veg, i.e. cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms gave themselves up to a stir fry lunch then went on to provide two cold lunches after getting mixed up with quinoa and excited by a little bit of chilli jam on the side.

That’s eight meals provided for out of a possible fourteen over the week including dinner tonight: grilled sausages and potatoes with red chillies and saute leeks. The unclaimed carrots and onion will roll over into next week’s vegetable lottery.

I’ll cook all 1 kg of the Valour potatoes and they will valiantly re-appear in Chocolate Potato Cake because Easter is coming (more on that later) and in Smoked Salmon Quiche with potato pastry because my mum is coming. All the potato recipes have been inspired by the Potato book. Somehow every vegetable finds it’s place in the end including the veg peelings that wind up in the compost bin (food for the garden).

Red Hot Potatoes Take: 1 red chilli, finely chopped (de-seeded), 1 small onion sliced, a pinch of cumin seeds, 2 tbsp olive oil, 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered, 1 rasher of bacon cut into bits (optional), coriander leaf (pinched a leaf of the Vietnamese coriander growing in the kitchen) and seasoning. Serves 2

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water. Heat oil and cook chilli and cumin seeds for a minute or so, add bacon bits. Add sliced onions and cook until softened. Stir until bacon crisp then add cooked potatoes. Toss together with other ingredients until potatoes start to brown. Remove from heat and add chopped fresh coriander. I used the first leaf from my Vietnamese Coriander growing in the shelter of my kitchen until it’s warm enough to grow outdoors. Wow, this dish punches above it’s weight in flavour, that and the melt in the mouth texture of the Valor potato, I’ll definitely be making this again. Meanwhile there is a second helping in the pan!

The combination of the flaming potatoes and the sweetness of the apple and pork sausages and the no nonsense leeks makes this a very hearty meal. Just what I need to warm me up on this cool, damp April evening.